Presenting the AgCenter’s annual report to the Evangeline Parish Police Jury during its monthly meeting April 9, Fontenot said the total estimated gross Evangeline Parish farm value of plants, fish, wildlife and animals, is more than $119 million for 2011.
Rice continues to produce the parish’s top gross farm value, with an estimated $37.3 million, followed by aquaculture (crawfish), at $20.9 million. Forestry, at an estimated $17 million, has lost value due to a decrease in timber prices, Fontenot said.
He said the AgCenter is involved in a number of other programs beside tracking agricultural production. The state, seeking budget cuts last year, considered cutting AgCenter staff. However, because of the large participation of young people in 4-H activity - involving more than 11,000 in the parish - state officials decided to keep two agents at the AgCenter in Evangeline Parish. Only one other parish in the state was allowed an additional agent, while many other offices lost staff.
Two other AgCenter staff, Tina Guillory and Todd Fontenot, spoke to the police jury.
Guillory, who oversees 4-H activities in the parish, said the organization’s programs are reaching every school in the parish. One of the newer efforts involves nutritional programs, with emphasis on the younger students.
She also said students in the parish are playing leading roles in state 4-H organizations.
Sacred Heart High senior Robert Fusilier is state 4-H president and Mamou High senior Martin Thomas is serving a second year on the Legislative Youth Advisory Council.
Ville Platte High senior John Michael Fontenot is on the 4-H state board overseeing shooting sports, Sacred Heart junior Jordan Vidrine is on the state 4-H science, engineering and technology board, and Basil High senior Bryson Belaire is a 4-H regional representative for central Louisiana.
Two Sacred Heart sophomores, Ardhyn Parks and Savannah Watts, will represent the state 4-H fashion board at an event in New York City this year.
AgCenter assistant agent Todd Fontenot also briefed the police jury on the new 4-H shooting sports programs, which emphasizes discipline and safety regarding guns and archery.
During the police jury meeting, a representative of Cannon Cochran Management Services, Ed Dicks, recommended the jurors update the parish Personnel and Policy Manual for employees to facilitate the transition back to work by employees who leave work for medical reasons.
The police jury voted in favor of the proposal that involves written descriptions of light duty, which would be shown to doctors who are treating parish employees. Those light duties may limit lifting requirements or other strenuous activities.
Failure of employees to accept the terms of light duty that is approved by a doctor could result in reductions in compensation, although medical expenses would continue to be covered.
Dicks said when employees “are paid to stay home, it’s hard to get them back to work.” With a written policy encouraging employees to return to work, “It would significantly bring down workmans comp claims” for compensation of wages, so the parish’s workmans comp insurance premiums would be reduced.
In other police jury action, the jurors voted to change a road in the Basile area that was designated as “2-12W” to Waterfowl Lane.
The police jury also discussed an issue taken up during committee meetings the week before - awarding of bids to local vendors.
State law requires awarding of low bids, whether they are local or submitted by vendors in other parishes, of high-cost items. In such cases, jurors confirmed that local bidders could be asked if it would be possible to reduce a bid to be competitive, if an outside bidder has a lower bid.
However, state law doesn’t address lower-cost purchases. Chester Granger, parish public works supervisor, said when a part is needed for repairs “to keep crews rolling in a timely manner,” local vendors are contacted first. If the part isn’t available locally, he will look outside the parish for a part that can be installed the same day.
Also during the police jury meeting:
•Doug Deville, parish secretary/treasurer, asked the jurors to let him know as soon as possible if they will attend Acadiana Day at the Statehouse in Baton Rouge April 24. The event starts with registration at 9 a.m. and ends at 3:30 p.m.
•Deville reported the parish collected $311,387 in sales tax during February.